AVON — Professional composer Austin Jaquith spent Tuesday afternoon with the Avon High School Symphony Orchestra at a rehearsal to polish their performance of the original music he wrote for them.
So far, Jaquith said the student orchestra was doing well with his composed music after only practicing for a month and a half.
“You can see the attention in their faces, they’re very attentive to playing well, you can hear them putting their hearts into it, they’re doing a great job,” he said.
The Avon Band and Orchestra Boosters commissioned Jaquith to compose an original work for the Avon High School Symphony Orchestra last year. The plan was to involve several schools in the area, but that idea was canceled after financial problems.
The never-before-heard music will make its debut at Avon High School’s spring orchestra concert May 9. The piece, “The Valravn Deathwaltz,” embodies a Scandinavian mythological creature of the song’s namesake. The valravn is from Danish folklore about a raven that transforms into a monstrous creature after eating a heart.
The idea for the piece came to Jaquith from the rollercoaster at Cedar Point named “Valravn.” At first, he said, the music would follow the ups and downs like a roller coaster, but Jaquith completely changed it to focus on the creature itself after doing more research on the beast.
Jaquith said the music follows the same theming, starting with the calm and beautiful sounds representing a raven, and shifting to the loud and erratic sounds representing the bird becoming the valravn.
The symphony, comprised of the best players in the school from freshman to seniors, only has had two months to practice Jaquith’s music. Orchestra director Jesse Martin said they’ve made great progress. The orchestra is made up of 67 students, including 40 strings, 12 woodwinds, 12 brass and three percussionists.
Martin said students can benefit from practicing with the composer of the music to get a better idea of why and how it should be played. The orchestra is used to playing more classical music and usually performs pieces composed decades or centuries ago.
“We’re used to playing Beethoven, Mozart and now they get to actually get the music interpreted by the person who wrote it,” he said. “When you play Tchaikovsky, who knows what he was thinking, he’s dead.”
Ethan Diaz, 17, a senior and principal trombonist for the orchestra, said the solos in the piece as well as the length of the 10-minute-long song have been challenging to master.
Austin Jaquith is a composer and music professor living in the greater Dayton area where he teaches at Cedarville University. His compositions span both film and concert music and have been performed and presented across the U.S. and abroad.
The orchestra will rehearse with Jaquith one last time May 7, just a two days before the concert will debut.